Somalia: Inauguration of Social Safety Net Package Signifies an Important Step in Protecting the Poor and Fighting Poverty, Says Festu

opinion

The Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) today applauded the Federal Government of Somalia for the launch of the Social Safety Net for Somalis across the country, particularly vulnerable people who will receive the shock-response cash transfers.

The inauguration of the social safety net program at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia with the presence of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Sadik Hirsi Warfa and the Minister of Finance Dr Abdirahman Baileh, demonstrates strong political will and commitment. Now is the time to turn commitments into action to create inclusive opportunities for working families and the poorest and most vulnerable groups in the country.

The World Bank-funded Shock Responsive Safety Net for Human Capital project, under the leadership of the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs (MOLSA), is necessary and timely support as it aims to provide cash transfers to targeted poor and vulnerable households and establish the building blocks of a responsive national system to shocks. Known for its Somali name Baxnaano, the project is expected to support 200,000 poor and vulnerable families living in extreme poverty across the country and provide them with nutrition-linked cash transfers.

"Trade unions greatly appreciate this timely support from the World Bank in partnership with our government. But it is only a drop in the ocean as Somalia now faces the daunting task of overcoming the converging pandemic crisis and persistent poverty," said FESTU General Secretary, Omar Faruk Osman.

The raging COVID-19 crisis has revealed the urgent need for adequate social safety nets to protect the vulnerable population, particularly the workers trapped in in-work poverty. The vast majority of workers and their families are unlikely to receive assistance of any kind and will be left to fend for themselves. This combination of acute and unexpected social pain on the one hand, and the lack of collective relief provided on the other is fertile ground for causing social unrest if not addressed quickly.

Organized labour continues to emphasize the urgency of providing a universal social safety net to workers in the informal economy, as opposed to cosmetic and fragmented solutions, as workers in the informal economy are the most affected, least supported and are often the last to rebuild their lives at times of crisis.

Osman, fuming at the huge unemployment rate in Somalia and the loss of jobs and income compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, stressed the need for the Federal Government, in collaboration with development partners, to put in place a mechanism that will generate social protection and inclusive growth in accordance with the National Social Protection Policy and the National Development Plan (NDP-9).

"The establishment of social safety nets for the vulnerable groups has become more important than ever as Somalia strives to combat this deadly Coronavirus disease. The COVID-19 crisis is spreading rapidly and has had a dramatic negative impact on the entire labour market and the economy. We call for effective implementation of the social protection policy to ensure that the policy protects the majority of Somalis and workers," stressed the labour leader.

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